"All Over but the Shoutin' " by Rick Bragg
Newspaper reporter Rick Bragg won a Pulitzer Prize writing about the battles and triumphs of other people. He's my favorite story teller, and finds the dignity in most everyone he writes about, no matter how flawed. Bragg uses those skills to tell us about his career, and more importantly, his family. Bragg writes about his upbringing. If you grew up in the rural South, you'll relate to the people in the book. Many of them were in your life, they just had different names. My favorite part of the book is when he takes his innocent and loving mother to New York City for the Pulitzer Prize ceremony. I was like author Pat Conroy who, after reading the book, said he fell in love with Bragg's mother a hundred times.
-- Danny Carter
"Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt
I read this book as soon as it arrived at the public library in 1996. The story is a memoir of the life of McCourt from early childhood until he is nineteen year old. While there are parts, (OK, most parts of this book) are extremely sad, the telling of this young man's life is nonetheless, a book I simply could not put down. Whether true to the facts of McCourt's life in Ireland or not, this book made a profound impression upon me as I read it, one I recall clearly even 14 years later. It is a book that deserves, and maybe even needs, to be read-once is, however, enough.
-- Mary Braswell
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon
One of my favorite novels, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon, is written from the point of view of a 15-year-old British boy with Asperger's syndrome who's investigating the murder of a poodle. It's original, clever, and genuinely moving.
-- Gary Barton
"Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World" by Vickie Myron.
The whole town soon learns about this amazing cat that is smart beyond understanding. Next newspaper reporters are coming for interviews. Even a TV documentary is made about Dewey.
-- Jim Soos
"The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Glass Castle", Jeannette Walls' biography. Phrases like "humble beginnings" and "dire straits" are inadequate to describe her upbringing. Walls, now a journalist, is the best example one can find of the importance of education in changing a life. Cliches like "a fascinating read" and "highly recommended" suit this book just fine.
-- Gloria Barton
"Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks
Omri receives a couple of unusual presents for his 9th birthday, a small plastic 3-inch-high toy Indian and an old medicine cabinet his brother found in the alley. This fantasy tells the story of how things placed in the cabinet come to life, beginning with the Indian Little Bear. A touching friendship develops between the boy and the Indian brave. NOTE: A good read for children in grades 4 and older.
-- Karen M. Liebert
"Needful Things" by Stephen King
For one who strives daily to put coherent sentences together often to no avail, the plot complexity and character development in this suspenseful thriller should make it a "must read" for any connoisseur of good writing. The twists and turns associated with one singular event, the arrival of shopkeeper Leland Gaunt to the sleepy town of Castle Rock, make for a true study in human behavior. And, being the son of a Baptist minister, it was always funny to me how King develops the friction between the Catholic priest and the Protestant preacher. Priceless.
-- J.D. Sumner
"The Razor's Edge" by M. Somerset Maugham
I recently reread this book, which I picked up in the 1980s after the Bill Murray theatrical bomb. Set in World War I and the Great Depression, Maugham himself is a pivotal character in relating a novel based on actual events. Like Joe Friday used to say, only the names were changed to protect the innocent. The story follows the primary character, Larry Darrell, on a long path to enlightenment, which is as big an enigma for him as his unpredictable behavior is to those who count him as a friend.
-- Jim Hendricks
"Salem's Lot" by Stephen King
It's an older work by the modern horror master, the second of more than 50 that King has written in his prodigious career, but it's far and away his scariest ... and best. Vampires are all the pop culture rage now, but you won't get the warm-and-fuzzies reading about the Salem's Lot bloodsuckers who terrorize the small Maine town of the book's title. Read this one during the day ... It will keep you awake nights.
-- Carlton Fletcher
"A Short History of Financial Euphoria" by John Kenneth Gailbraith
This 1994 title examines various economic bubbles; our current problems with the housing bubble, and credit bubbles may well delude us into thinking that we must surely have learned the lesson about herd mentality. As I recall, much of this book is concerned with the event known as Tulipomania otherwise known as Tulip Bulb Mania. Prices of tulip bulbs in 1637 were soaring out of sight. This is an incredible interesting classic and a quick read.
-- David Fry
"The Trial" by Franz Kafka
This novel was the final work of the author whose storytelling is so unusual he gets his own adjective: "kafkaesque." The story begins with Josef K. awaking to find himself arrested, but he never learns what crime he's supposed to have committed. The totalitarian nightmare continues from there unabated. Resist the temptation to read notes or a foreword until you've finished the book, as those might give away more of the story than you'd like. And expect some disorganization, especially near the end: Kafka never finished "The Trial" except in rough notes, and he wanted it destroyed after his death. Lucky for me it wasn't.
-- Bill Strickland